Segments in this Video

The First Measured Century: Introduction (02:26)


During the 20th century, Americans are avid recorders of human activities, enabling the ability to examine long-term trends. Ben Wattenberg discusses using statistics to look at history. The extension of liberty is essential to American success.

World's Fair: 1893 (02:10)

The fair showcased products of progress to approximately 27 million visitors; numbers defined the standards of beauty. William Cody staged productions outside the fairgrounds.

"Frontier Thesis" (05:53)

Frederick Jackson Turner presented his thesis to the American Historical Association in 1893. He believed in American exceptionalism and worried the country would become more like Europe. He was the first historian to see his intellectual activities as a social science; geography was one of his biggest influences.

U.S. Immigration (06:10)

Scientific racism labeled immigrants as unfit for self-government and biologically inferior. By 1930, 28 million immigrated to the U.S.; new immigrants clustered in cities and often faced hostility.

Race and Eugenics (06:02)

At the turn of the 20th century, races numbered in the dozens; William Ripley established a racial hierarchy based on head shape. Charles Davenport wanted to improve the "American breeding stock"; eugenicists believed race and character were fixed and immutable. Franz Boas opposed the eugenicists' views and published an intensive study on European immigrant children.

Sorting Races and Quotas (05:25)

H.H. Goddard promoted the intelligence quotient. During WWI, Lewis Terman convinced the army to use I.Q. tests to sort draftees; eugenicists convinced Congress to pass the National Origins Act. "The Melting Pot" was the most popular play on Broadway in 1908.

Combating Social Conditions (06:46)

In 1900, more than one in six infants died before age one and mothers were 100 times more likely to die in childbirth. In Chicago, living conditions were stark and disease spread rapidly; female volunteers established settlement houses. The Illinois Bureau of Labor hired Hull-House to gather wage statistics; the ensuing book established an argument for reform.

American Sociology (06:54)

William Fielding Ogburn argued that emotion must be eliminated from thinking because it influenced data. Numbers were a source of power for female activists. Congress created the Children's Bureau and Julia Lathrop launched an educational campaign for mothers. Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Infancy Protection Act.

Consumerism (04:17)

The 20th century was a consumer society. By 1930, over 26 million cars were in use, but the American economy was volatile; John D. Rockefeller Jr. funded a religious survey conducted by Robert Lynd.

Muncie, Indiana (04:27)

Lynd and his wife Helen surveyed a community representative of mainstream America to see how it changed from 1890 to 1925. Lynd would not consider religion in a separate context.

Consumer Society (04:57)

In the 1920s, acquisitions of goods increased; advertising conditioned prosperity. Goods and technology transformed everyday lives and housewives worried about effects on their children. The Lynds cited a growing division in society.

"Middletown" (02:44)

The Lynds' study was an instant success. Debate ensued about whether the rise of consumerism had a positive effect on society.

Credits: The First Measured Century: 1900-1930 (01:43)

Credits: The First Measured Century: 1900-1930

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The First Measured Century: 1900-1930

Part of the Series : The First Measured Century – The Other Way of Looking at American History
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The three-hour PBS program The First Measured Century, tells the story of America by the numbers through the eyes of those who did the measuring and the interpreting, often in highly controversial and unusual circumstances. Part One includes: Closing of the Frontier, Scientific Racism, The Children's Bureau, Middletown, and Recent Social Trends.

Length: 61 minutes

Item#: FPT169064

Copyright date: ©2000

Closed Captioned

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